The assaults bill drafted in the wake of the Police Federation’s Protect the Protectors campaign has successfully passed its third reading in the House of Commons meaning it will now pass to the Lords for consideration.

Jim Mallen, chair of Bedfordshire Police Federation, says that while the provisions of the bill are welcomed they have been weakened and therefore do not provide the level of protection sought through the campaign.

“Our nationwide campaign has highlighted the growing number of assaults not just on police officers but also police staff and other emergency service workers and sought to ensure that those who attack us as we go about our duties are suitably punished by the courts,” says Jim.

“For far too long, emergency service workers have come to accept being assaulted as part of their job. But that should never be the case. To ensure this stops, we need to see an end to some of the lenient sentences handed out to those who attack us not just as a punishment but also as a deterrent to others.

“While we welcome the progress of this bill, I am disappointed that it has been watered down. We need better protection in law and that means we need tougher sentences for people who assault those who are just trying to do their job and serve their communities.”

Just last week Jim and Bedfordshire Police Federation secretary Emma Carter visited a Bedfordshire officer who had a broken leg after being assaulted. They gave the officer a hamper provided by national Federation chair Calum Macleod and vice chair Che Donald.

Rhondda Labour MP Chris Bryant put forward the Assaults on Emergency Services (Offences) Bill and received cross-party support from MPs last year and also on Friday (27 April) when it came before the House of Commons again.

The bill gives police added protection when it comes to sexual assault but the maximum term for common assault remains at 12 months rather than the 24 months that had been proposed.

And the Federation’s national chair Calum Macleod says this could lessen the impact of the new bill.

He explained: “Magistrates do not have 12 months sentencing powers for one offence, therefore six months is the maximum we can expect at the moment. Offenders are being under-charged and prosecuted for a lesser offence. This is the reality and this is why police officers will continue to feel under-valued with criminals laughing in the face of justice.”

Bedford Labour MP Mohammad Yasin was the sole county MP to speak during Friday’s debate. He supported the bill and said assaults should not be seen as an occupational hazard for those working in the emergency services.

He explained: “While some judges will add an additional penalty if an assault on an officer is proven in court, that is not automatic. CPS judges have historically viewed an assault in the course of arrest as to some extent just part of the job. We must not tolerate that any longer.”

Mr Yasin continued: “We need to change the culture in this country because it is currently not acceptable.”

He also wanted an offence of spitting at emergency workers to be included in the bill, explaining: “We must put legislation in place to guarantee that a tough line will be taken on anyone who assaults an emergency worker. This must extend to spitting - a disgusting and aggressive attack - and sexual assault.

“The regional Crown Prosecutor for Bedfordshire advises officers and staff to give the same amount of attention to their own witness statements as to those of other victims, and to provide personal impact statements to the court.

“The Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police has agreed to supply a supplementary personal statement in the event of any serious assault, detailing its impact on the force and colleagues, to add weight to the argument for the maximum penalty.

“However, such good practice is weakened if there is not legislation to back it up. That is why this bill is so important and why I support it.”

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